Defining the Next Normal in a Post-COVID World

Since March 2020, life has changed drastically as our nation has struggled with a global pandemic, racial injustice, a challenging election and civil unrest. Early on, scientists warned of the impact of these stressful events on physical and mental health.

One year later, these impacts have come to fruition. Researchers are finding that due to the inability to cope with these ongoing stressors, physical and mental health have declined. Americans have delayed healthcare appointments, gained weight, increased consumption of alcohol, altered sleep patterns, decreased their physical activity and are experiencing serious increases in depression and anxiety.

How has this impacted our children?

Not only have Americans had to deal with the pandemic disruptions on their work and social lives, but also cope with the pandemic’s impact on their children.

Parents have been more likely than those without children to have received treatment from a mental health professional and to have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Additionally, reports indicate that more than 50% of parents believe their children would benefit from receiving treatment from a mental health professional since the pandemic began.

The impact appears to be most significant on our youth, ages 13-17. As a result of the unprecedented levels of uncertainty and elevated stress, youth are experiencing symptoms of depression at levels of up to 53% higher than children of other ages.

What does depression look like in kids?

Depression symptoms do not look the same in everyone. In fact, they vary quite a bit from one person to another–and especially from one age group to another. In Children, common symptoms include:
  • Sadness, hopelessness
  • Problems at school
  • Loss of interest in fun activities
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Clinginess
  • Anxiety
  • Avoiding school and social activities
In Teens (ages 12-17), mood swings are normal. But those that last longer, perhaps days, can be indicative of depression. Other symptoms of depression in this age group include:
  • Sleeping or eating too much
  • Avoiding friends
  • Unusual levels of irritability
  • Lashing out
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Self harm
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Problems at school or home
  • Feelings of worthlessness, anger and extreme sensitivity

What can I do to help?

There are several ways that you can help to manage the consequences of this stressful time.
  • Staying connected with friends and family is of utmost importance to build much-needed emotional resilience.
  • Self-care helps to maintain one’s equilibrium as well as to recover when the balance has been disrupted.
  • Mindful meditation is a great way to promote relaxation while decreasing anxiety, depression and stress.
  • Physical activities, such as yoga and stretching, are helpful for stress reduction and wellness.
  • Exercise is a natural way to help decrease depression and anxiety.
  • Creative activity, such as journaling, writing poetry, painting or drawing, photography, dancing or playing music provide create outlets for stress.
  • Engaging with peers and talking about what’s going on with you, including past events you’re still processing, and spending time outdoors and in nature can be very healing.
  • Joining in local efforts provides restorative benefits. Giving is far more rewarding than receiving.
When efforts like these are not successful and the symptoms begin causing disruption in relationships and academic performance, a referral to a therapist is warranted.

As a leader in Trauma Informed Care, SaintA has many options available to you and your school. Between our School-Based Mental Health programs, customized Trainings and Consultations, and in-person and virtual Mental Health Support, we can help begin the process of defining the next normal moving forward.

This article was originally posted in SaintA’s Compassionate Schools Newsletter. Sign up to receive the next issue directly in your inbox!


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